
Re: science of complexity
Harriet Whitehead (whitehea@WSUNIX.WSU.EDU)
Sat, 1 Apr 1995 09:17:54 0800
Yes, indeed. I find it deeply ironical that just as one of the latest
turns in science, viz. complexity theory, is finally making it possible
to more realistically integrate scientificmathmatical insight into the
social sciences, finally making it possible to scientifically 'recognize'
the historical factor or the phenomenon of emergence,  just at this
point, the postmodernist wave has branded all of science "positivism"
and declared it passee. Yes, dodoes (sp?) live!
Harriet Whitehead
Anthropology, WSU
On Sat, 1 Apr 1995, John Mcreery wrote:
> Again I trace an argument from memory, but what I remember goes
> like this: The evolution of modern science involved
>
> (1) the experimental methodin which the isolates the essential
> factors unders consideration, attempting in this way to eliminate
> extraneous influences on the relationship being studied.
>
> (2) the representation of essential factors in mathematical terms
> which while it has the effect of precision also has a byproduct a
> prejudice in favor of factors easily represented using available
> mathematics (geometry and calculus in the case of classical
> physics).
>
> These steps lead to
>
> (3) a bifurcation of the world into things which can be
> experimentally isolated and represented mathematically and a
> residue (in fact the bulk of commonsense experience) which resists
> isolation and/or mathematical representation.
>
> It is then a short leap to asserting
>
> (4) that experimental, mathematical science defines the domain of
> Trutheverything else being, at best, mere opinion, and
>
> (5) that research is properly ranked by how closely it approximates
> the experimentalmathematical model. Thus, for example, while
> neither economics nor anthropology conduct real experiments (the
> subjects of both being too entangled in the world for experimental
> isolation), the former, by paying more attentionto relationships that
> lend themselves to mathematical representation is thus more
> scientifica superior thing to do.
>
> Needless to say, these conclusions lead to great roarings and
> gnashings of teeth among those who feel their fields of study
> degraded by this scheme. Some, predictably rush to imitate their
> friends in high (and highly funded) places by adopting the guise
> (more rarely the reality) of science. Others attempt to turn the
> tables by arguing that the sciences have missed the really important
> stuff, aka art, emotion, spirit, morals, politics...add your favorite to
> the list.
>
> Tibor may be on to something when, a few sentences later, he also
> writes,
>
> "It seems to me, that much of the po mo wars can be traced to the
> urge to revenge among the mathematically abused."
>
> What is sad about all this is the sheer bloodyminded ignorance of
> folks who, stuck at the point I left the argument just now, are
> apparently unaware of work being done by philosophers of science
> and scientists themselves to expand the limits of the classical
> model and to understand the history of science as a human activity
> I think immediately of Stephen Gould. Meanwhile, too, the
> mathematicians and their cousins in computing and cognitive
> science keep coming up with mathematical representations of things
> once thought to be unrepresentable. Don't claim to follow the math
> or be able to write the programs myselfbut fractals, chaos, neural
> networks...there's so much going on that continuing to beat the dead
> horses of 19th century positivism is becoming downright quaint.
>
> I venture a prediction. Those folks at Columbia will have their 15
> minutes of fame (the Andy Warhol principle). Then they will be one
> with the dodoes. But then, so may we all. <g>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Peace,
>
> John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
>
